Next month, Los Angeles Unified will unveil the Robert F. Kennedy school complex for 4,200 K-12 students. At $578 million, it’s the nation’s most expensive school.
“New buildings are nice, but when they’re run by the same people who’ve given us a 50 percent dropout rate, they’re a big waste of taxpayer money,” said Ben Austin, executive director of Parent Revolution who sits on the California Board of Education. “Parents aren’t fooled.”
RFK, built on the site of the Ambassador Hotel where Kennedy was killed, includes fine art murals, a marble memorial depicting Kennedy, a manicured public park, a state-of-the-art swimming pool and pieces of the original hotel.
Partly by circumstance and partly by design, the Los Angeles Unified School District has emerged as the mogul of Taj Mahals.
The RFK complex follows on the heels of two other LA schools among the nation’s costliest — the $377 million Edward R. Roybal Learning Center, which opened in 2008, and the $232 million Visual and Performing Arts High School that debuted in 2009.
The pricey schools have come during a sensitive period for the nation’s second-largest school system: Nearly 3,000 teachers have been laid off over the past two years, the academic year and programs have been slashed. The district also faces a $640 million shortfall and some schools persistently rank among the nation’s lowest performing.
A heavily Hispanic school, Roybal earned a 1 out of 10 on the Academic Performance Index compared to all California high schools, a 3 out of 10 compared to demographically similar schools.
Update: Including capital costs, Los Angeles Unified spends $30,000 per student, writes John Seiler on CalWatchdog. Like virtually all districts, LA Unified reports only operating costs.